Transforming Leadership: A New Pursuit of Happiness
James MacGregor Burns
Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:
In 1978, James MacGregor Burns published Leadership, his seminal examination of how leaders shape the course of history by transforming followers into creative new leaders. The book quickly became the cornerstone of the emerging field of leadership studies, which has spawned over nine hundred academic programs as well as leadership programs in business and government. Now, twenty-five years later, Burns expands the subject, offering a new vision—Transforming Leadership—focusing on the ways that leaders emerge from being ordinary "transactional" brokers and deal makers to become true agents of principled social change who empower their followers to achieve freedom and happiness.
As a historian, Burns illuminates the evolution of leadership structures, from the chieftainships of tribal African societies, through Europe's absolute monarchies, to the blossoming of the Enlightenment vision of liberty that came to full flower with the Declaration of Independence's "Pursuit of Happiness." Along the way he looks at key moments in leadership—including both great triumphs and grand failures—in men and women, from African leaders to Elizabeth I, James Madison, Napoleon, Mao, Gandhi, and many others. The book culminates in a bold and innovative plan to address the greatest global leadership challenge of the twenty-first century: the seemingly intractable problem of global poverty.
Engagingly written, original, and provocative, Transforming Leadership is a powerful book that will fire controversy and conversation in classrooms and boardrooms throughout the country.
Twenty-five years after the publication of Leadership, Burns expands upon his theories about how leaders cultivate their successors to explore how they create environments conducive to social and personal development. He distinguishes between "transactional" leaders, who thrive on cutting deals, and "transforming" leaders, whose sweeping changes totally revamp political institutions. Although the book relies on a variety of historical examples, it devotes particular attention to Franklin Roosevelt, about whom Burns has written extensively in the past (The Lion and the Fox; The Soldier of Freedom). Burns's underlying theory imagines leadership as part of a broader social process in which leaders and followers are closely interrelated. Starting with psychologist Abraham Maslow's theories of the hierarchy of human needs, the book suggests leaders attain their power through their responsiveness to others' desires for security, self-esteem and personal development, putting themselves in a position to "create and expand the opportunities that empower people to pursue happiness for themselves." As such, leadership is an inherently positive process, distinguishable from tyranny by the latter's inability to promote liberty and equality. Amusing asides, in which Burns describes how he attempted to apply his understanding of leadership principles to raising his children, enliven the scholarly consideration of leadership's evolution over the centuries. These accessible anecdotes, as well as Burns's explications of historical examples, will ensure the book's influence extends beyond its most obvious implications for political science.
—Publishers Weekly Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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About the Author
James MacGregor Burns is senior scholar at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond and Woodrow Wilson Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Williams College. He is the author of numerous books, including Transforming Leadership, The American Experiment, The Deadlock of Democracy, Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox, Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom, and The Three Roosevelts (with coauthor Susan Dunn).
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